Ep 49 with Peter Levine is live

Episode 49 is live. Peter Levine founded Somatic Experiencing, a body-oriented approach to healing trauma. (Many of you reading this I know are familiar with his work.) In this interview, we hear about the origins of that work, and a lot about what's now, and what's next, for this pioneer.

Tune in at http://www.thebodyawake.com/levine/ or anywhere you find podcasts.

3rd Anniversary Episode Live

Dearest Body Awake Readers + Listeners ~

I am recently back from a wonderful 5-day immersion in Hakomi with Donna Martin (remember our interview?) and recorded Episode 48, which also happens to be a few days after The Body Awake’s 3rd anniversary. May 18, and a full moon this year!

So here’s Full Moon : a Third Anniversary Special.

May it be a nourishing part of your sweet unfolding, friend.

From mine to yours, LB

ps July immersion is over half full; would love to have you join us if you’re keen


The Most Important Thing(s)

If I were to start a school — a body-centered awareness training — I would highlight a few things foremost:

- listening. period. listening is listening is listening, whether with your hands (palpation) or eyes (visual assessment) or ears.

- time observing nature.

- anti-fragility / resilience. so much of the alignment-based paradigm, while it can be a real gift, can be a very firm cage of posture, and linear-progression mentality. and here’s the kicker: if you believe it, it is so.

- communication and wholeness in our anatomy. I suppose it was helpful to learn the name, action, origin and insertion of each muscle, but far, FAR more interesting and primarily useful, I think, is an embodied understanding of how a body communicates with itself, and the anatomy of connection (and no, “it’s all connected” doesn’t cut it)

- systems of inter-body communication, how we harm and heal each other, permission, boundaries and consent, and the social aspect of the autonomic nervous system.

- writing and speaking with integrity and clarity.

- stillness.

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The body awake immersion this summer will be a small gesture, looking in this direction. It's for anyone interested, not just bodywork folks.

Deets: July 25 - 27 / Bellingham, WA / $345.

We’ve begun to fill up (max 12), which is exciting. PM or email me with interest, cheers and thanks. Love, Liam

Embryology, Phylogenetics and Holons

Embryology, Phylogenetics and Holons

Are you familiar with the term “holon”? If you’ve listened to The Body Awake, you may’ve heard me mention it here and there, as I love the model. A holon is anything that is a complete system unto itself, and also part of a larger complete system.

Examples abound: cells are a complete life, and cells also make organs, which also make a whole human body.

We could also say this just as truthfully in reverse order: that your couch is comprised of fibers, which are comprised of molecules, which are comprised of atoms, which are comprised of …

Therein lies the beauty of the lens, I think. It’s pointing to something that is indeed hierarchical, but that hierarchy runs both ways.

As in, it’s true that there are more complex, we could say more evolved, versions of things.

And it is also true that what’s above depends on what’s below, but the inverse isn’t true: You can have an atom without having a molecule, but you can’t have a molecule without atoms. You can’t have an organ without cells, but cells can exist and not be part of an organ.


Phew. Okay, so … pause that for a second. Let’s look at embryology and phylogeny.


Our gut tube is our “oldest” system. It’s in quotes because, embryologically all our tissues develop more or less at the same time. But it’s true that there exists a phylogenetic hierarchy.

✨“Phylogenetic heirarchy.” Say that at your next cocktail party and prepare to be envied for your vast intellect! ✨

But really: phylogenetics is the study of how species develop, or evolution, which is a useful metaphor at least (if you’ve heard terms like “lizard brain” or “monkey mind,” you’re familiar with this metaphor in action; you don’t actually have a lizard brain, but you do have a brain stem and so do reptiles; it’s the first evolutionary expression of a collation of a central nervous system.)


A lizard also has a gut tube. So do you. So do single celled plankton. Nutrition in; waste out. It’s the oldest game around.

The nervous system is our “newest” development. I think a lot about the nervous system. (So meta! I know.)


I used to think much more that “awareness” had no particular location. It was a nice non-dual thought for a nice non-dual guy like me. But now, from all that I’m learning, I’m pretty sure “awareness” as we conceive of it — that is “I am aware” — is, indeed, a function of the nervous system.


In fact, we could say that’s what the nervous system IS, that that’s the WHOLE POINT: to be aware. Why? To keep you, the organism, alive.

✨See that tiger (via your optic nerves et al)? Run.

✨Feel that touch of your lover (via a whole host of afferent nerve endings)? Lovely. Stay and enjoy. Digest. Get an erection or secrete vaginal lubrication and maybe even procreate.

✨Hold a vision of a life you think you deserve (for better or worse)? Watch it become so.


The nervous system is a higher system. It just is.

The locomotor, i.e. our musculoskeletal system, is in the middle.

The guts are on the “bottom.”


BUT! We’d be fools to think, then, that the nervous system is somehow “better,” or it’s just a matter of get this in a row and everything will fall into place.

 

Of course that might prove to be true. But just as easily we could make a case for any particular holon. Cellular healing of all traditions works at this level. Healing of the guts works to influence awareness / experience by working at a “lower” holon level (which, of course and again, is only “lower” from one perceptive; from another, it’s “more essential” because it’s a prerequisite for higher functioning, but not vice versa).

You can have a gut tube without anything else, but you can’t have locomotion without a digestive system, and you sure can’t have a nervous system — “awareness” — without either of those: a means of moving life through and a body of tissue with which to sense.

💙

The moral of this story: take care of each other. “Lesser evolved” is also a way of saying “more foundational and therefore essential.”

Or as philosopher Ken Wilber said (in his book that rocked my world when I was 22, A Brief History of Everything): the mantra of the holon is: transcend and include.

Transcendence without inclusion is hollow and incomplete.

Inclusion without transcendence (more complex organization) is stagnant, and not how life moves.

💚

"Chill" and "Released of Extraneous Tension"

“Chill” says that, no matter what, don’t lose your cool. As a doing, it’s a state we’re going for, a command.

“Released of extraneous tension” points to that your cool is your body’s autonomic response to any given moment. Are there responses being lived in your body to events that are not actually happening now? (Of course, yes, for me too.)

As a doing, this release of the extraneous is an inquiry, a living hum perfect matched to every ripple of reality.

“How tense should you be?” makes absolutely no sense without the context of “What is actually happening?”

Most of the time, indeed, there’s no reason to be in a huff. But trying to chill out is reverse engineering. Ask what’s extraneous, and listen. The answer may be chill, but it might not.

Three New Poems

“Anatomy Lesson”

We are not
made in the image
of our creator.

We are not
made at all,
but grow

from seed —
animated by the
unspeakable —

as all living
things have
and do.


"Birds"

I sit this morning
to write,
to summarize old

ideas that only yesterday
called my name,
were so real,

so vital, but now
so difficult to conceive,
so lifeless,

so yesterday's
thoughts.

I'd taken
note of them
in my notebook

where I hold
such ideas, and
return today, amazed

at the difference between
a photograph of a bird
and a bird.


I had forgotten!
in my bones that
hold my bones

how insight is not
an accretion of insight,
but a radical emptying.


Love, LB

The Trauma of Non-Action

A week ago, I posted a one-minute video with a quick takeaway: if one sees painful stuff going down and does not intervene to help, one is likely to live with a particular kind of bystander trauma.

Of course, the person or peeps for whom the painful stuff went down can live with their own particular pains, as can those who intervened to help!

As we all know by now, this isn't about finding the way through life unscathed — but I do think this particular aspect is worth highlighting, for two reasons.

1. We could think of this particular "bystander trauma" as a stuck movement.

As in: the bystander's gut instinct was to do something. That's literally in their body. But for whatever reason they didn't (and maybe good reason! like "oh, they already have help" or something), and that movement is now in the tissue, incomplete, and we call it "tension."

2. It's not a stretch, for many of us at least, to think of this systemically.

And imagine: you see something horrific, and you can't / don't do anything about it ... One very sane response, from a biological perspective, is to "other" the beings to whom the atrocity is happening.

The further they are from your heart, the less pain you'll feel. I want to highlight: this is a very sane response from a certain perspective, and happening mostly if not entirely below the level of conscious thought.

The kicker, of course, is our body knows this is b.s. — that "they" are "us." 

(Thank you to one of my teachers and previous guest on the show, Lauren Christman, for presenting this insight as part of the idea in our class a couple weeks ago. It landed with me deeply and has been churning since.)

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ps hello! are you enjoying these writings? getting something out of some of them? want to hear more on a particular idea? please do respond to this, or any email — I’d love to hear from you.

We — I — You — We

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships.

We all began, way back when, immersed in “we.” There was no separation, for better or worse, between your experience of the world and your mother’s.

Then “I” was born. Quite a stark difference, eh.

And of course, there’s no “I” without “you.” You the cup. You the lock of hair. You the voice in the far corner of the room. You the sound that evokes in me a great panic, or great relief, or both.

How do I relate to all this? A new “we” — a relationship between “I” and “you” — is born.

And that’s what we’re tending in this life, I reckon.

Though it’s the same word, it can point to two radically different points of orientation.

There’s the “we” of Unity and the “we” of ordinary, day-to-day relationships, where there is obviously a relationship but even more obviously there are two separate beings in that relationship.

There’s no merged state in this one. And that's evident: a brick dropped on your foot doesn’t hurt me like a brick dropped on my own foot.

I know, and thankfully, everything above is all the most obvious stuff in the world. But in a world where we use that word a lot — “we” — I think it’s worth inquiring into what we’re actually after, what we’re pointing to when we say that.

I write this this morning as I pontificate on some class material — which for me is increasingly inextricably linked to “life material” — and think about perspectives: “we” as both an inarguable fact from which you and I emerged, and also something we must tend, with care and ferocity, as if our lives depend on it.


(Because, of course, they do.)

Clarification, Patience and the Ocean of Yoga

Episode 46 — the first interview of Season 3 — is live with yoga-teacher-since-the-early-80s Patty Townsend.

I was struck with how Patty embodied a kind of deep silence and yet used her words well, and how she offered her experience with both humility and clarity.

We go into what teaching yoga in the States in the early 80's was like, the distinction between purification and clarification, even a really sweet — if not super disarming — tip for teachers on how to begin a class ... a home practice you can do to feel the buoyancy of your internal organs ... and heaps more.

I really enjoyed this one; hope you do too! You can find it anywhere podcasty, on the tba website.

Let's Talk About Fragility

Because we hardly would ever say that — “you are fragile” — as a compliment.

Four things that I think are important to remember here, not as an end but as a starting point (rooted in the truth as best as I can see it):

1.. The quality of fragility abounds in nature — including but not limited to snowflakes.

(Which, if you’re not familiar, is a common diss, originally of the “liberal snowflake” variety but now something that’s been taken by all sorts of groups. It means the recipient of the metaphor is not able to handle any more than a tiny amount of stress, or conflict; that they break too easily.)


.

2. And the thing is: it’s a quality. It’s not something you are or aren’t any more than you are or aren’t nice — we’ve all been kind and we’ve all been a’holes.

And it’s a transient quality, depending on all sorts of things, just like whether you are warm right now, or your bladder is full, is a transient quality. You’re not “someone with a full bladder” as a kind of permanent status. You are that until you aren’t … until you drink more water and are again …


.

3. It’s also one ingredient that co-exists with other ingredients. Even with anti-fragility — which if you’re not familiar with Nassim Taleb’s idea, I’d highly recommend googling it; it’s a really beautiful concept and, yes, it’s different than “resilient” or “robust" —



Like the bones of our body. Are they fragile or anti-fragile? Yes to both. They both “thrive on randomness, stressors and error” (an anti-fragile quality) and are harmed by too much stress (a fragile quality).



All living systems are this way, from cells to whales.

.

4. Lastly, consider back to point #1, can someone be too fragile? Of course. It’s probably really good medicine for a lot of us to buck the f’ up.

AND … and … consider the autonomic nervous system.



Consider what any animal does when in a deeply contracted fear state. That’s a fragile state. It’s very, very tender.

And sometimes you help that animal out by telling it to toughen up, and some of the time you do so by helping that animal feel safe, and watch as it begins to display more anti-fragile properties of its own accord.



(And of course we may be more than, but we certainly are, animals.)

————

Fragile systems are a part of nature’s wisdom. And from this wisdom, we also know they are not a life sentence: They can be affected, for better or worse, by you and by me.

Embodiblast Pro (tm)

Tired of being a disembodied thinker? We’ve got you covered. Time to crush your 2019 embodiment goals!

(Not seeing a video? Click here.)

ps it’s April 1. If you’re getting this via emails, it’s April 2, but hopefully you get the joke.

But! And! Brooke Thomas and I are indeed almost finished with a project that this idea has been our joke introduction for. So … this, but for real, coming soon.

Body Maps

Have a look at the images below. What do they all have in common?

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Which of these seem more like reality to you?

If you're a body-centered practitioner, which of these do you perceive as giving you the best access to the territory of the human wilderness?

What is included in your favorite body maps and, just as if not more importantly ...

... what's not?

Michael Hamm and I are co-teaching a one-day workshop in Seattle on this very subject. You can read about it and sign up if you’d like to, here.

Begin Again

“Begin Again” — aka “after the exhale”

I

I search for and cannot find
the Great Way,
while its only-thing-here’ness
has never been more obvious.

But that’s not why I write this morning.

I want to make sense of the past —
the radical suffering,
if not mine now
then surely
someone’s
now.

The answer is always the same.
Silence.

Silence, silence, silence …

then a car horn. Then the banging
of garbage cans being emptied,
a bird of Bellingham spring,
the scratch of my pen on paper …

all excitedly announcing their place
in the family of things
,
over and over again.

II

Silence is the answer, eternal
— is that not obvious?
is it not ready to devour these words
as soon as they stop
becoming? —

but also,
at the same time,
listen.

Listen!

Your life is calling you,
and it has never, ever
been a more perfect time
to say something
back.

III

Yes, you are it.

And, you are hearing it.

Just as you can touch your leg
with your hand, and be both
the one touching and
the one touched.

Hear yourself now, speaking.

And hear yourself now,
completely silent,
in between
the words.

 

— LB

ps first interview of season three recorded today, I’ll put it up soon

On Sharing

On Sharing. Aka processing a bit from yesterday.

I often feel / think into how much I’m going to share of my personal process, out into the world.

Yesterday’s blog post was a peek into what life can be like for me. I heard from several of you — most everyone in some sort of “thank you; this is nice to read” but one listener brought up a vital point: you share something too early and it can be like dissecting something living, something in process. (I will certainly be sitting with that image for awhile.)

As far as making a rule about “do share” or “don’t share” a personal process … as many of you already know, I find it useful to feel into the “at best” and “at worst” aspects of any given teaching.

>>> And, before we begin, know that no teaching gets to be spared from this. There are no words so pure that they haven’t been used for horrific crimes, and none so vile that they haven’t helped someone at some point. <<<

At best, personal sharing says “hey, that painful thing you might be going through, I not only have gone through that in some distant past, I really, intimately get it. You are not alone.”

At worst, something happens akin to the listener’s insight about dissection. Something dies prematurely, the shadow never really gets to fully compost, to die into what it will become. (Imagine if you poked your head into a cocoon mid-process. Game over.)

And at best, not sharing is just that: really time for you to be you. For me to be me. To fully have our own experience, free of “how is this going to sound when I put it on paper for the world to see, or share this with my yoga class tonight?”

And at worst, not sharing means isolation, the kind that withers you like lack of sunlight and fresh air. It means fear and not putting anything out into the world because you feel like it’s not ready, the kind of ready that it will never be because, of course, you never really are. You do it anyway.

Digestion / thoughts. I’d love to hear your take on this, dear reader, if you’d care to share.

Thanks, love, from my life to yours, Liam

ps if you didn’t catch it, you might really enjoy the 15-min yielding to the “it’s not going to be okay” meditation

Allowing the "You Suck" Voice: an embodiment practice

Here’s a personal story from a few days ago.

I woke up feeling pretty terrible, a bit physically but a lot emotionally. I drank some beers the night before (and it'd been awhile), and slept not well and woke up stress-thinking, and hugely hearing that voice of having messed up, not just small picture, but The Big Mistake … whatever that’s about.

The intensity of that voice is amazing. It said something like “You’re a piece of shit loser and you’re never going to do anything right.”

A lot of the internal work — or awareness whatever you want to call it — I’ve been doing lately is around seeing what happens when I fully to that kind of darkness. Yielding to that very voice.

And yes, yielding meaning not saying affirmations, not making a plan for the day that involves me achieving something to prove what a champ I really am, not manipulating my energy to feel better. Any of those things may come, but first … first it means yielding, like “yes.”

Perhaps of course to you, dear reader, but I’ll explain anyway … the work is not just saying “yes, you’re right, I’m worthless” and feeling in the dumps. That’s a huge, huge pitfall here. It’s the conceptual seeds for really deep depressions.

If it’s not that, but it is a kind of yielding, surrendering the fight against that voice, then what is it?

So there I am … feeling a self-loathing belief system fully up and on board.

Step one: what’s the belief underlying this?

Of note: this answer will almost always come as a feeling - knowing, which may include but is not primarily a cognitive, verbal answer; words are not the language of the brainstem.

As in: you’ve got to feel it.

And so, in this instance, I’m the one who had to feel it: my own, intimate, very personal version of this.

So step one begets step two: feeling it.

By even asking “what is this darkness?” and honestly being interested in an answer, you’re feeling it.

And then … ?

I’m amazed — nearly every time — how radically my whole biochemistry changes.

(“How long does it take?” is a question off on the wrong foot. There’s no answer to that because the question assumes something untrue.)

It’s such a wild thing to talk about … as I know many, if not all of you in your own way, know … but how a problem can evaporate without being answered. It’s not like “oh, now I feel sunny and wonderful!”

But it is like “oh, the sting … the deep power that darkness had while it was being held down in the ‘oh god, please just go away’ place … is now a movement … and the movement has a feeling, a trajectory, a nature-based wisdom just like rivers and wind.”

This is all grist for the mill, if anything, for your own life and experience. That’s the only reason I share stuff like this.

Also, a few days I recorded this 15-min guided inquiry / meditation practice around allowing the impact of not getting what you want. That’s here if you’d like to do that practice with me.

Love, LB

A Spring Poem

“Traveler”

You are a traveler
in your body.
This you know.

Why, then, should
the weather, storms and
winter and summer drought

come as any surprise?
Oh, but let them surprise
you all the same!

How much more a delight
when the suddenness of a midnight
rain hitting your rooftop startles you

awake.

Thanks for being here, and write back anytime.
Thanks, love, LB

New Moon : Season 3

Dearest TBA Listeners ~

I am happy to announce the moon is waxing and, after four months, The Body Awake is back with an orientation to season three.

Thank you for being here. Seriously. This show isn’t a show without our collective attention, interest and love.

Love, LB

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On Constraint and Orientation

Lately I am gardening
what I can of my days
like my life depends on it:

pruning mostly,
and weeding,
or tending or

whatever you want to call that process whereby you remove a bit
in order to let some other bits live more fully,
where you constrain yourself in some ordinary way

so you can feel your skin rub against something,
your muscles strain against something, to let you know
right where you are, right when this is happening,

your sense of place in a world where anything
is possible, where anything is possible and
where our wildness revels in knowing what it is not.

— LB

Your Internal BS Detector

Every human I’ve ever met has one, and they’re usually exquisitely accurate.

Annoyingly accurate.

Like the million ways you try to BS yourself ... it never works, right?

Your ancestors wouldn’t have survived if it had. We’re good at sensing when something is off, for better or worse.

The Heart of a Very Physical Movement Training Class

I journaled this morning about what’s really at the heart of one of the classes I teach called “Strength, Mobility + Body Awareness” that has some very athletic, focused, we’re-going-to-work-hard elements to it.

For me, personally, what’s this about? Why are we doing this?

It’s not about being able to do pushups, or active backbends, or squats. Yet we work on those things.

So what’s at the heart of it, if not getting better at the class’ content?

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The answer is something about cultivating loving relationships — actually loving relationships that don’t need everything to be okay to speak openly, to act boldly and listen just as boldly.

(As in: not Hollywood, fear-based "love is acting nice and listening nice" ... but like real, Jesus-turning-over-the-money-table "how dare you defile my father's house?" kind of love ... the love that can act. And yes, can turn the other cheek and give hugs, of course that too.)

.

Ultimately I reckon it’s about other people.

From Rilke and I agree, “For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

.

So we’re preparing, in some ways, with relationships that hold a little less charge:

- a receptivity to body sensation’s subtleties

- a kindness towards what arises in those sensations

- the courage to move through helplessness, which in many of us is instilled at a very young age, and a wondrous antidote to which is intense, focused physical movement training

- our immutable, unwavering relationship with gravity

- in relationship with the thrill of success, the bite of failure, the gajillions of new neurofascial connections that are made when we embrace learning a new movement pattern, really give ourselves to the task like a toddler learning to walk

- with reality, plain and simple, as it presents itself in the body you have / are, right here and now

- and yes, some with other people in simple partnering exercises

That’s where my heart is at. For now.

And of course, if you happen to find yourself in Bellingham, WA, USA, you’re most welcome to join.

💛 LB